It all starts with a great song. Without great songs, musicians would have nothing on which to practice their craft. Blue Yesterdays features eleven songs by mandolin player Kurt Westie and that’s a significant undertaking. They’re not all winners – a few could have used a bit more seasoning before committing them to, umm…, plastic – but he’s put together a credible effort.
Westie’s songs are strongly tied to his midwestern roots and his time spent around the bluegrass festivals there. The influence of those places and times winds through songs like Bean Blossom Lullaby. He also pays significant tribute to his major influences, Bill Monroe (Monroe’s Passing) and John Duffey (I Miss You Rider). Those don’t seem to be the strongest songs from a lyrical standpoint, but their touching emotion carries them along. On the other hand, he’s a strong and imaginative mandolin player, displaying his chops on in the Dawg-inspired instrumental Opus Winfield and on the bluegrass barn-burners The Road To Bean and Blue Wah Diddy.
One of Westie’s older tunes, Love Addiction, illustrates the flaws of the weaker cuts – the lyrics aren’t really all that well crafted compared to, say, the CD’s opening cut Can’t Go Back Home but maybe that just shows how Westie has matured as a songwriter, too.
We tend to hold songwriters to a somewhat different standard than other performers, and if Westie isn’t the strongest singer, Blue Yesterdays still works because the songs are the main interest here. Ably supported by Dave Schroeder on guitar, Brenda Wolfersberger on bass and vocals, Jason Mowbery on fiddle, Dave Weber on percussion and, in particular, Brandt Smith on banjo, dobro and vocals, Blue Yesterdays is a good showcase for some well-crafted, contemporary sounding new bluegrass tunes. We always welcome more of those.